Debut Chicago Performance
In 2014, French 79 appeared on a music scene limited to the French territory, or so he thought. Within just a few months it quickly became an international hub that elevated the artist’s career. The single Between the Buttons, a contemplative, synth heavy gem enhanced by a beautiful arpeggiator, excepted from his first EP Angel, instantly placed him on the list of today’s most important producers. This first successful attempt enriched the tracklist of the album Olympic, alongside another pop gem, “Diamond Veins,” a duet with North American diva Sarah Rebecca. The album was quickly met with a worldwide audience, paving the way for Simon Henner to acquire over 150 concerts around the Globe. This led him to becoming an ambassador for Marseille’s electronic scene — a territory he had already stepped into with the various projects of Husbands, Nasser and Kid Francescoli.
Joshua is the follow-up album to Olympic. While the second album, typically, often shows what critics call “maturity,” here Simon has released instead an album of adolescence. The musician opened up his own memory box to contemplate his childhood souvenirs, and dust them off of all nostalgia. At that time, he would VHS-record movies from TV and tape record soundtracks directly from the TV speaker, so he could listen to them in his bedroom. This is when he “discovered the power of music, the way it makes you enter another world, far from reality. I wanted to pay tribute to the era I shaped myself in — the ’80s and ’90s.” Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk and Soft Machine. Logically, these are the sonic signatures that seem to haunt the album. The timeless pioneers of synthetic music constitute the sound references, without any established chronological timeline, that blend with the atmosphere of typically “French Touch” movie soundtracks — long before the term was even coined. “I use a musical palette that acts as a flashback to my favourite teenage movies: the synth sounds of Close Encounters of the Third Kind; the synth pads in Jean-Jacques Cousteau’s fascinating documentaries about the sea world; the melodies in the manner of François De Roubaix; the themes that evoke the soundtracks of late-night TV sessions (those by Verneuil, those with Belmondo, Depardieu, etc.); and the sci-fi ambiences like in Blade Runner.” In short, an aesthetic was decided on by Simon very early on: French analog synths instead of North American symphonic orchestras.
The name Joshua has two meanings for French 79: one is linked to the idea of nostalgia, the other to adventure. On the one hand, the computer in the 1983 movie Wargames, and on the other, the boat of French sailor Bernard Moitessier.
The track titled Joshua synthesizes the spirit of the album — an odyssey, a neverending crossing of the world in search of oneself, a spontaneous escape into the future, under the benevolent eye of the past. This epic invites everyone of us to a specific place in our imagination, which is also the source of an indescribable pleasure for French 79: a gust of wind, a sailboat ride, a skateboarding trick, the smell of freshly fallen snow, or the dull roar of an impatient audience.
The same aesthetic preferences are found in the videos that illustrate Joshua‘s first tracks: for Hold On, the skateboarder chose to recall the cult ’90s skate videos that he would watch on repeat as a teenager, while Hometown hints at Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Although he now calls Marseille home, Simon continuously draws with passion from the anachronic contemporaneity of his childhood in the Eastern French region.
“I need escape to be able to create. A two or three-day sailing trip gives me enough inspiration to lock myself in the studio for a week when I’m back on dry land.” His boat takes him far away from everything, far from the Old Port where she moors, the rest of the time Simon would escape by walking the streets of his city or climbing the Alpine mountains.
Not only does the new version French 79 reveal a few biographical pieces of Simon henner’s history, but it also inaugurates the first vocal track for the musician. One feels a guilty pleasure when hearing him take the lead on the first track, The Remedy. The electronic fugue that opens the album sets the tone: Simon has found the cure for his inner turmoil and wants us to discover our own treatment too. Hold Onis a sonic explosion that celebrates the feeling of freedom — what’s more of a teenage dream than this feeling — and it eventually command one to feel the same way too. Echoing Olympic, the electronic argonaut invites his muse again, singer Sarah Rebecca. On By Your Side and Touch The Stars, the native of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, now based in Paris, hoisted the mainsail of dream pop. First, though a dialogue that surfaced their unfailing attachment to the bonds of friendship, then through the light hearted atmosphere that leaves us with no choice but to believe in our own dreams and do anything possible to fulfill them. The quest for peace in the midst of the daily din is heard in both Code Zero and the title track Joshua, two majestic journeys in search of hedonism, combined with introspection.